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Cablegate: Ncp Open to Arbitration On Abyei

VZCZCXRO8105
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0159 0340459
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 030459Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9862
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000159

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: NCP OPEN TO ARBITRATION ON ABYEI

1. (SBU) During a meeting with CDA Fernandez January 31, NCP
strategist and Director of the Strategic Studies Institute Dr. Sayed
Al-Kkateeb said the NCP may be open to arbitration on Abyei.
However, he said the NCP may not be open to a high-level meeting in
Washington to inaugurate an Abyei initiative because "a visit to
Washington is no longer viewed as a carrot." However, Al-Khateeb
warned that if the Abyei issue is not solved and the South secedes,
"the Abyei quagmire will suck both sides back into war." Al-Khateeb
said that in recent political executive committee meetings with the
SPLM there has been no progress on the thorny Abyei issue. "Sooner
or later Abyei must go to arbitration, and you are the godfather of
this protocol," observed Al-Khateeb but warning that such
arbitration will require real engagement and neutrality.

2. (SBU) On the upcoming visit of Special Envoy Richard Williamson,
Al-Khateeb warned that the envoy should come prepared to listen in
depth to both parties and must not come with a pre-conceived plan.
"We are offended when diplomats here and visitors act like Sudan is
a protectorate," he said.

3. (SBU) Proposed AEC chair - former UK Ambassador to Egypt and
Arabist Derek Plumley - may not be accepted by the NCP, according to
Al-Khateeb. Al-Khateeb said he told the President that Plumley is
not the only candidate. He noted that much will depend on what the
Presidency wants to do with the AEC. If the Presidency wants a new
formulation of observers and a chair from a different country than
Norway, an entirely new decree will be required. Al-Khateeb pointed
out that it would have been much easier if Norway had simply
retained the chair and proposed a replacement for former AEC chair
Tom Vraalsen. He also noted ominously that UK candidate Plumley
will be viewed through the prism of broader UK-Sudan relations.
However, Al-Khateeb said that within the narrow confines of the AEC,
the NCP viewed UK and US contributions to the commission quite
positively, while there had been problems with the Italians and the
Dutch. "And the Kenyans never got into the game."

4. (SBU) Al-Khateeb claimed the NCP does want elections, but that
other parties don't want elections - and the SPLM wants to move
directly to the referendum. "They want things to be so chaotic that
the NCP will be forced to postpone elections" and they won't have to
take the blame. Perhaps revealing the true inclinations of his own
party, however, Al-Khateeb said that a delay in the election might
not mean a delay in the referendum.

5. (SBU) Comment: Al-Khateeb practically invited SE Williamson to
engage on Abyei, which is an opportunity not to be missed, if done
with the depth and attention required of this complex issue. It is
clear that the thinking half of the NCP recognizes that this issue
must be solved somehow. However, as we have pointed out many times,
the U.S. must offer something credible - in terms of both incentives
and consequences - in order to be able to engage with the Sudanese.
And while some NCP officials may welcome outside arbitration on
Abyei, the standard party line is still that the negotiations
between the SPLM and NCP on this issue have not been exhausted and
"foreign mediation" will only be called for, "when the time is
right," which may be too late.

FERNANDEZ

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